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The receiving, retaining and processing of information or ideas
This skill is all about being able to effectively receive information - whether it comes from customers, colleagues or stakeholders.

Initially, the skill steps concentrate on being able to listen effectively to others - including remembering short instructions, understanding why others are communication and recording important information.

Individuals then focus on how they demonstrate that they are listening effectively, thinking about body language, open questioning and summarising and rephrasing.

Beyond that, the focus is on being aware of how they might be being influenced by a speaker, through tone and language.

The final steps are about critical listening - comparing perspectives, identifying biases, evaluating ideas and being objective.


The oral transmission of information or ideas
This skill is all about how to communicate effectively with others, being mindful of whether they are talking to customers, colleagues or other stakeholders and in different settings.

Initially, this skill focuses on being able to speak clearly - first with well known individuals and small groups and then with those who are not known.

The next stage is about being an effective speaker by making points logically, by thinking about what listeners already know and using appropriate language, tone and gesture.

Beyond that, individuals focus on speaking engagingly through use of facts and examples, visual aids, and their expression and gesture.

Beyond that stage, speakers will be adaptive to the response of their listeners and ready for different scenarios. The final steps focus on speaking influentially - using structure, examples, facts and vision to persuade listeners.

Problem Solving

The ability to find a solution to a situation or challenge
This skill focuses on how to solve problems, recognising that while part of Problem Solving is technical know-how and experience, there are also transferable tools that individuals can develop and use.

The first steps focus on being able to follow instructions to complete tasks, seeking help and extra information if needed. The next stage focuses on being able to explore problems by creating and assessing different potential solutions. This includes more complex problems, without a simple technical solution.

Beyond this, the focus is on exploring complex solutions - thinking about causes and effects, generating options, and evaluating those options. This extends into analysis using logical reasoning and hypotheses.

Finally, individuals implement strategic plans to solve complex problems, assess their success, and draw out learning for the future.


The use of imagination and the generation of new ideas
Creativity is the complement to Problem Solving, and is about generating innovations or ideas which can then be honed through the problem-solving process.

The first few steps focus on the individual's confidence in imagining different situations and sharing their ideas.

The focus is then on generating ideas - using a clear brief, making improvements to something that already exists and combining concepts.

Individuals then apply creativity in the context of their work and their wider life. They can build off this to develop ideas using tools like mind mapping, questioning, and considering different perspectives.

The most advanced steps focus on building effective innovation in group settings and by seeking out varied experiences and stimuli. Finally, individuals support others to innovate, by sharing tools, identifying the right tools for the situation and through coaching.

Staying Positive

The ability to use tactics and strategies to overcome setbacks and achieve goals
This skill is all about individuals being equipped to manage their emotions effectively and being able to remain motivated, and ultimately to motivate others, even when facing setbacks.

The early steps focus on identifying emotions - particularly feeling positive or negative. Building off that is the ability to keep trying - and then staying calm, thinking about what went wrong, and trying to cheer up and encourage others.

The focus then turns to identifying new opportunities in difficult situations, sharing those, and adapting or creating plans accordingly. At more advanced steps, individuals identify and manage risks and gains in opportunities.

Finally, individuals support others to stay positive by managing their own response, helping others to see opportunities and creating plans to achieve them.

Aiming High

The ability to set clear, tangible goals and devise a robust route to achieving them
This skill is about being able to plan effectively - both to achieve organisational goals, and also to set their own personal development targets. Initially, this is about knowing when something is too difficult, and having a sense of what doing well looks like for an individual.

The focus is then about working with care and attention, taking pride in success and having a positive approach to new challenges. Building on this, individuals set goals for themselves, informed by an understanding of what is needed, and then be able to order and prioritise tasks, secure resources and involve others effectively.

At the higher steps, the focus is creating plans informed by an individual's skill set, with clear targets, and building on external views. At the most advanced level, individuals develop long-term strategies. These are informed by an assessment of internal and external factors, structured through regular milestones and feedback loops.


Supporting, encouraging and developing others to achieve a shared goal
This skill is relevant not only for individuals in positions of management with formal power, but also for individuals working with peers in teams.

At the earliest stages, the focus is on basic empathy - understanding their own feelings, being able to share them, and recognising the feelings of others. The focus is on managing - dividing up tasks, managing time and sharing resources, managing group discussions and dealing with disagreements.

Beyond that, individuals build their awareness of their own strengths and weaknesses, and those of their teams. This allows them to allocate tasks effectively. They then build techniques to mentor, coach and motivate others. At the highest steps, individuals will be able to reflect on their own leadership style and understand its effect on others.

Ultimately, they should be able to build on their strengths and mitigate their weaknesses, and adapt their leadership style to the situation.


Working cooperatively with others towards achieving a shared goal
This skill applies to working within both formal and informal teams, and also with customers, clients or other stakeholders. Initially, this is about individuals fulfilling expectations around being positive, behaving appropriately, being timely and reliable and taking responsibility. This extends to understanding and respecting diversity of others' cultures, beliefs and backgrounds.

The next steps focus on making a contribution to a team through group decision making recognising the value of others' ideas and encourage others to contribute too.Beyond that, individuals improve their teams through managing conflict and building relationships beyond the immediate team. At the top steps, individuals focus on how they influence their team through suggesting improvements and learning lessons from setbacks.

Ultimately, individuals support the team by evaluating others strengths and weaknesses and bringing in external expertise and relationships.

To achieve Step 14, individuals will be able to evaluate the right creative tools for different situations. 

In the previous step, the focus was on the range of creative tools that could be useful to share with others. This step builds on that by focusing on how to pick the best creative tools for the right setting.

Building blocks

The building blocks of this step are learning:

  • Why it is important to be able to evaluate the right tool
  • What tools can be used when the task is unclear
  • What tools to use to generate ideas
  • What tools can support refining ideas
  • What tools can support working as a group
  • What tools can support building a culture of creativity

Reflection questions

  • What are some of the things you need to know to suggest the right creative tool for a situation?
  • How can you clarify the parameters of a task? 
  • Which tools support generating ideas, and when are some better than others?
  • Which tools can help to refine ideas further?
  • How can tools support working as a group?
  • How can you build a culture of creativity?

What you need to know

Why it is important to evaluate the right tool

In the previous step, the focus was on sharing a wide range of creative tools which could support others to boost their creative skills. Often, though, we do not have the luxury of a lot of time to support others to build their creative skills holistically. Instead, we need to be able to judge the right tool for the moment quickly based on what they are trying to do.  

There are a few critical dimensions to consider:

  • What is their existing expertise with Creativity?
  • How closely defined or open is the task they have? 
  • How much time do they have?
  • Are they working alone or with others?

Challenge 1: The task is unclear

A regular challenge for creativity is that the task is unclear, and this can make it difficult to focus energies or to know what success looks like. Some tools here are:

  • Creating a design brief: This can help to pin down what is the intention of a task.
  • Identifying success criteria: This can help to define or clarify what success looks like, giving goals to work towards.

Challenge 2: We need to generate ideas

If individuals are clear on the brief and the goals, they next need to generate ideas. Some tools they can use are:

  • Ideas trackers: If we have plenty of time, then keeping a log of ideas as they come to us can be helpful – we can allow ourselves time to reflect. This works less well with a tight deadline.
  • Mind mapping: With a tighter deadline, we can use a mind map to arrange and explore our thoughts, adding additional ideas to them. This can also work well in groups.
  • Target number of ideas: It can concentrate creativity to set a goal to generate a certain amount of ideas in a limited time. This can also work well in groups.
  • Separation from the day-to-day: There is evidence that it can be helpful for taking people out of their day-to-day work to generate new ideas, for instance, by changing the location or avoiding other distractions.

Challenge 3: We need to improve our ideas

Once individuals have generated some ideas, they are likely to need to improve them. Some tools that are useful are:

  • Combining ideas: Breaking ideas into their components and then comparing them can be done individually in a moderate amount of time. 
  • Questioning techniques: This can be an effective way of improving ideas in a limited time, and works particularly well in a group setting. 
  • Perspective widening: This can take longer than questioning techniques, as ideally it would involve creating a diverse team and a broader group of stakeholders. Alternatively, it works well in a group setting if individuals take on different views or personas. It can be used individually, but it is quite tricky to do and relies on a high level of empathy.

Challenge 4: We are struggling to work as a group

It is not uncommon for groups to struggle to be creative together. Some tools they can use include:

  • Designated challenger: Also known as a ‘devil’s advocate’, this individual helps to avoid a stifling consensus emerging too quickly. It does lengthen the time to come up with ideas, but the result is higher quality. 
  • Splitting into sub-groups: This approach works if there are too many people in one group, or consensus forms too quickly. It takes longer because different perspectives have to be debated and reconciled. 
  • Modelling a safe space: The group leader can withhold their ideas and be explicit that they wish to have a diversity of opinions. This relies on the group leader being trusted to maintain that view. 
  • Anonymous idea creation: If individuals are nervous about sharing their ideas, this could be done anonymously and then all the ideas pooled together.

Challenge 5: We want to create a culture of creativity

Finally, teams might want to ensure that they have a culture of creativity for the long-term. To do this, there are a few tools that can help:

  • Create diverse teams: A key tool for creativity is ensuring diverse teams so that a range of opinions and perspectives get presented early on. This makes it harder to reach consensus quickly, but creativity is about generating ideas, not achieving a quick consensus. 
  • Encourage diverse experiences: Teams that are effective in encouraging creativity encourage their team members to have a broader range of experiences and to try new things. These provide the raw material for great ideas. This obviously takes time and a long-term investment.
  • Seek stimuli: Teams might also invest in an environment that offers varied stimuli for creativity – things that spark and nourish developing new ideas. Again, this could be through trips or visits that take individuals out of their comfort zone, and might turn into a long-term investment.

Advice for


Why this skill step matters in education

By encountering different situations and tasks in education, we can learn and practise which tools are most effective to support others to be creative. We might find that a task is unclear and success criteria need to be identified. Alternatively, when working in a group, it is important to choose the right method to record everyone’s ideas. Education plays a key role in widening our perspective so it’s important to make the most of these opportunities when working with others.

Why this skill step matters in the workplace

In many workplace contexts, time is a precious commodity and it will be beneficial to quickly identify the appropriate creative tools to help others innovate and make decisions in that particular situation. Different tools can be suggested depending on whether ideas are being generated or refined; similarly, it may be necessary to promote a culture of creativity or a positive group working environment. Choosing the appropriate tool can improve creativity, efficiency and team dynamics.

Why this skill step matters in wider life

We use creativity in lots of areas of our everyday lives. Helping others to innovate and seeking diverse experiences can being people closer together and stimulate new ideas. We might consider which creative tools to use to make group decisions on where we would like to next go on a trip or combine ideas to reach a compromise.

How to practise this skill step

To best practise this step of Creativity, apply what you have learnt to a real-life situation. Choose one or more of the activities below, remind yourself of the key points and strategies in the step, and have a go!

  • Before helping others approach a task creatively, ask yourself what are some of the things you need to know to suggest the right creative tool for a situation?
  • Check that everyone in your group understands the parameters of a task; if not, spend a few minutes outlining the brief and success criteria.
  • When you find yourself in disagreement with someone over a decision, look for ways to combine ideas or ask questions to further your understanding of their perspective.
  • If you find yourself in a group which is struggling to work together, consider one of the methods to improve creativity: appoint a designated challenger, split into sub-groups, model a safe space or ask everyone to submit ideas anonymously.

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Advice for


Teaching it

To teach this step:

  • The teacher should remind learners that they have come across a wide range of creative tools. However, it is one thing to know what the tools are, and quite another to be able to evaluate the right tool for a particular setting.
  • Learners should reflect on what they need to know before they suggest the best creative tool, drawing out some of the questions in the first section. 
  • Learners can then generate suggestions of tools for each of the five challenges laid out above. The teacher can challenge them to think of ideas if time is short, if an individual is working alone or in a group, and how clearly defined the task is.
  • This can be extended by learners creating scenarios and role-playing, giving one another advice based on the scenario to test whether they can come up with appropriate suggestions.

Reinforcing it

This step can be reinforced whenever learners are working on a creative task. Individuals can be asked before they begin what they need to do, and to think about the best creative tools they can use to support that particular activity. 

Assessing it 

This step is best assessed by giving learners a series of scenarios and asking them to recommend the best creative tools for the scenario that they have been given. This assessment could be written, or it could be verbal discussion.

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Build it at work:

This step is relevant to everyone who helps others to generate high quality ideas.

To build this step in the work environment, managers could:

  • Explain the importance of choosing the right creative tool for the right situation. To support this explanation, a manager might model use of a creative tool that is unsuited to the situation to show the effect. 
  • Task an individual with an exercise which is about them identifying the right tool for the right situation. 
  • Reflect with an individual about what they need to know before they suggest the best creative tool. To support this reflection a manager might use some of the questions listed in the first section.

Practising it:

There are plenty of opportunities for building this skill in the workplace:

  • Working with colleagues: When helping colleagues to clarify tasks, generate ideas, and evaluate those ideas. 
  • Working with customers or clients: When we want to widen our appeal to potential customers by coming up with better quality ideas. 

Reviewing it:

For those already employed, this step is best assessed through a discussion. For instance:

  • Presenting individuals with a series of scenarios and asking them to recommend the best creative tools for the scenario that they have been given. 
  • This could also be observed, or reviewed in 360 feedback, focusing on whether colleagues feel supported by the individual through the creative process. 

Spotting it in recruitment: 

During the recruitment process, this step could be assessed by:

  • Tasking an individual to work on a case study. This case study could present the individual with a series of scenarios and task them to identify which creative tools they would use in each. 
  • After the individual has made their choice, they could have a reflective conversation with the interviewer. Evidence of this skill step can be found in the individual making a logical choice between situation and creative tool.

Build this step

Advice for


We work with a wide range of organisations, who use the Skills Builder approach in lots of different settings – from youth clubs, to STEM organisations, to careers and employability providers.

We have a lot of materials available to support you to use the Skills Builder Universal Framework with the individuals you work with, including:

  • Tools for self-reflection
  • Materials to support you to teach the skills, if appropriate in your setting
  • Reward systems like printable certificates

We also do a lot of work with organisations who join the Skills Builder Partnership to build the Universal Framework into their work and impact measurement systems. You can find out a lot more using the links below.

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Advice for

Parents & Carers

At home, you can easily support your child to build their essential skills. The good news is that there
are lots of ways that you can have a big impact, including:

  • Talking with your child about the essential skills, what they are and how they are useful in all
    aspects of life, whether at school, home or in the workplace
  • Talking about how you use these skill steps in your own work or wider life
  • Helping your child to identify where they already build their skills at school, at home or
    through other activities and clubs
  • Praising your child when they show they are using the skills well, and helping them to feel a
    sense of achievement
  • Encouraging them to recognise and talk confidently about their skill strengths with others, and
    supporting them to develop their skills further

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